Saturday, January 23, 2010

Relieving Haiti

With 10,000 deaths being added each day to the death toll in Haiti, people around the world have been asking if they can lend a hand to the relief effort. Donating money is the best way for most people to help. Most relief agencies will tell you that, although the offers of "another body" to help is appreciated, budgets and other practicalities limit on-scene staff to people with specialized skills. Sometimes, those skills are those belonging to mariners. Earlier this week, for instance, I received this email:
Could you please pass the info below along to anyone you may feel may be interested. The vessel is a brand new 300ft/228 passenger US flagged Cruise Ship.

There is a POSSIBILITY that the Voyager, formerly named the Cape May Light, will be staffed and in operation very, very soon. IF so, I will need to staff her.

Please note – She will be U.S. Flag, we need U.S citizens/green card holders, and we require unlimited licenses.

She would sail from Green Cove Springs, Florida to Haiti.

2.She would be used to house U.S. government and military people.

3.If we get the okay to go, this will happen very, very quickly.

Luann L. Ayer
Vice President, Human Resources, Deck/Engine
International Shipping Partners, Inc.
4770 Biscayne Boulevard
Penthouse A
Miami, Florida 33137
305-573-6355 ext. 236
Several Maritime Administration ships are also being dispatched to Haiti. MARAD has been to Haiti before, sixteen years ago as part of Operation Uphold Democracy. For more on this week's mobilization, see the Seafarer's International Union's website here. MARAD has also brought the Massachusetts Maritime Academy Training Ship Kennedy into the effort.

The civilian mariners of the Military Sealift Command spent six months on scene at the relief efforts following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The hospital ship USNS Comfort, pictured above, was one of those and is today involved in the Haiti relief effort. For more see the MSC website here.

The Christian NGO Mercy Ships has dispatched its Disaster Response Team to Haiti. Mercy Ships is always looking for experienced mariners, but most positions are volunteer. Mariners and medical professionals who wish to help can find more information here. To contribute specifically to Mercy Ship's Haiti relief, click here.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines is using their ships to brings supplies into Haiti. For more on that, including how to contribute, check here. RCL's decision to continue port calls at their private beach in Haiti has been controversial. See The Guardian's coverage here.

The yacht crew charity Yacht Aid Global coordinates volunteers, donations, and transport to needy areas. They don't appear to have updated their site for a few months, and there is nothing specifically on it about Haiti, but there are several email addresses there for sending queries.

The Christian charity Harvest Time International is collecting needed supplies for evacuees from Haiti, many of whom are being initially brought to the Orlando area. For more on their needs, check here.

The Haitian Embassy in Washington has a special Earthquake Information and Emergency Response web page that includes a list of the major agencies participating in the relief effort

I've seen a number of posts on the Internet from people looking for or offering private vessels to run relief supplies to Haiti, or to rescue friends or family stranded there. The US military is currently blockading the country in an attempt to keep refugees from going to sea in unsafe craft or conditions, so while it may be routine to clear out of US and other ports when bound for Haiti, private vessels may have difficulty getting in or out again. At last report, the port of Port-au-Price was closed to "non-essential boat traffic."

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